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Tories question Joly's claim that returning turbine was about calling Putin's bluff

By The Canadian Press

Published 11:30 PDT, Thu August 4, 2022

Conservative MPs are questioning claims by Liberal cabinet ministers that Canada intended to call Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “bluff” when it returned pipeline equipment that was in Montreal for repairs to a state-controlled Russian energy giant.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is appearing before a committee of MPs looking into Ottawa's decision to allow a turbine to be released to Gazprom, which Canada has sanctioned over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, for use in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline supplying Germany with natural gas.

Joly told the committee that the return of the equipment left Putin with nothing left to hide behind, and the rationale had always been to reveal his dishonesty.

She says Canada authorized an exemption from the sanctions for the return of up to six turbines to Gazprom so that Putin did not have a pretext for interfering with gas supplies to Europe, based on the number of turbines repaired. 

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson echoed this sentiment.

But Tory MP Marty Morantz noted that the government didn’t use this language when the decision was first made and he questioned when it decided the rationale was about calling Putin’s bluff, rather than about securing gas supplies to Europe. 

Wilkinson said the intention of sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is to punish Putin and not to punish Canada's allies in Europe.

Joly argued that Russia had proven to the world that it cannot be a reliable economic partner. 

The Liberal government has faced heavy criticism, including from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for granting Siemens Energy the exemption to sanctions and allowing the turbine to return to Germany and eventually to Russia for installation in the pipeline.

Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, Yulia Kovaliv, is expected to make clear her country's disappointment with the decision in an appearance before the committee later today.

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